Lt. Duke LeJeune, a homicide detective, drummed his fingers impatiently on the desk. He was staring at a digital image of a Cheshire cat sitting beside a digital golden key. He and his colleague, Adele Palmer, a cybercrime specialist, were in the luxurious conference room of Gilgamesh Software, a global company whose applications were used by over a hundred big banks. Duke and Adele were investigating a new type of ransomware, from a new anonymous group that called itself Friends of Lewis Carroll and referred to themselves as Carrollians. The group had hacked into the Gilgamesh AI and other systems and had easily bypassed all the protections the IT team had put in place. Now the system was frozen by the software program they had left behind.
Duke caught murderers so he had tried to beg off, but the Chief had insisted that completely locking down all the firm’s computers and holding encrypted files hostage was effectively a plot to murder the company. Duke’s job was to try and find a way, if he could, to unfreeze the firm’s computer assets.
The Carrollians didn’t want money from Gilgamesh. Instead, they intended to use the company’s apps to extract money from the company’s clients, which the CEO knew they could. Like all software, Gilgamesh code had flaws. But the Carrollians also had a peculiar sense of fair play. They offered to free Gilgamesh from the digital shackles if its champion could solve three riddles. The CEO, no prize in either the logic or the humor department, had immediately called the SFPD and the SFPD had immediately sent Duke and Adele.
To start the riddles, the user had to press the letter Q, so Duke pressed Q.
The Carrollians’ ransomware program unlocked the monitor and the keyboard, then displayed the first riddle. This riddle was easy because it was famous and from Alice in Wonderland.
“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”
Adele, hailing from Virginia, whispered, “Because Poe wrote on them both.”
When Duke typed that response in, the Cheshire cat’s grin grew a little wider and the golden key became less lustrous.
The next riddle was, in Duke’s view, just goofy and made him wonder if they somehow knew that a policeman and not the CEO was answering the questions.
“There are two bodies on the floor surrounded by water and broken glass. How did they die?”
Duke typed, “The fishbowl got knocked over. They’re gold fish.”
After a few seconds, the Cheshire cat’s grin grew even wider but showed some sharp teeth.
The third riddle was a digital image of the Queen of Hearts with a cartoon balloon over her head which said:
“If you tell a lie, we will steal all your software. If you tell the truth we will erase all your files.”
The CEO put his head into his hands and groaned, “We’re done for.”
Duke thought for a moment and typed, “You will steal all the software.”
The Cheshire Cat disappeared and the display said, “You have done well, beamish boy. But beware the Bandersnatch.” Then the head of IT came running in and said all systems had been released and the AI was behaving normally.
Duke looked at Adele. “No luck Duke, we still don’t know how they came or went or if they’ve left a software bomb for another day.”